This is a speculative, 'what if?' post rather than one based on current observable trends.....
I regularly hear that one of the unique aspects of mobile communications is 'personalisation'. You are identifiable by a number, you have a private, non-shared, customised device with your favourite ringtone & colour scheme, and you are 'owned' and identified by your service provider.
In general, I agree - but will this always be the case?
I'm just wondering out loud, but perhaps there might be scenarios which 'depersonalise' the mobile. It's certainly not common now, but it's dependent on social dynamics & fashion, so it might change. Some possible scenarios that could muddy the waters:
- Phones shared ad-hoc among friends (eg teenagers 'swapping identities' as apparently sometimes already happens with IM or MySpace)
- Mobile numbers being allocated to shared (non-phone) devices like PCs, web tablets, consumer electronics
- Secondhand mobile phones
- Swapped prepay SIM cards
- Maybe it becomes cool to have a new phone / number every week so they get passed around
- Use of non-operator SMS-replacement clients could mean that you could 'sign in' from any phone
.... and so on.
Maybe there are specific 'depersonalisation' opportunities.... if you could automate number portability via a web interface, and couple it to ways to move your personal phonebook & profile, you could switch seamlessly between operators or phones.
You could rent an appropriately stylish phone to match your outfit for the day, then give it back & revert to your normal one. You could temporarily switch to another operator for the duration of the Olympics, if they had exclusive Mobile TV rights. You could try out all the operators in your country to find which one has the best overall coverage during the course of your day.
And maybe sharing phones could reduce the environmental impact of producing a billion handsets a year?
To be honest, this is all totally speculative on my part. I'm just musing. But it occurs to me that there would be quite a lot of business models exposed if we ever saw mass depersonalisation of mobile phones / numbers for some reason.
And look at other markets. In theory, cars (and registrations) are very personal. Yet people regularly rent cars, use taxis, lend cars to friends/family - and, recently, you have innovations like the shared City Car clubs.
I'll keep a close eye out during 2008... remember where you first heard 'mobile de-personalisation"...